Born on November 16, 1890 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur to Mariano Quirino And Gregoria Rivera. He spent his childhood in Aringay, La Union. He entered Vigan High School and later transferred to Manila and worked as junior computer in the Bureau of Lands and as a property clerk in the Manila police department. He graduated from Manila High School in 1911 and also passed the civil service examination first grade.
He obtained his law degree in University of the Philippines in 1915. He was elected as a congressman from 1919 to 1925, then as a senator from 1925 to 1931. He then became as Secretary of Finance and Secretary of the Interior of the Commonwealth Government. He was a member of the Philippine Independence mission to Washington, D.C., for the passing of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in the US Congress that set the date of Philippine indepence in 1945.
When World War II broke, he became a guerilla leader and was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned him. He suffered the execution of his wife, and three of his five children.
After the Philippine liberation, he continued his public service. He became Senate President Pro-Tempore and later elected as vice-president in 1946. Quirino became president on April 17, 1948, two days after the death of Manuel Roxas and continued the latter's unexpired term. The next year, he became a president in his own right by winning the presidential election.
His administration faced a serious threat by the communists Huks. He declared amnesty to the Huks and made some negotiation with the leader. The negotiation broke when the Huks was not satisfied of their demand of reforms.
Another problems his administration faced was the economy, poverty and declining credibility of the government. He constructed progrmas to resolved these. The Quirino-Foster Agreement in 1950 provided $200 million loan to the country from the United States. He also introduced the policy of economic nationalism to promote local products. To boost agriculture, his government created the Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration (ACCFA) which extended loans to farmers and facilitated agricultural equipments. To restore the faith of the people to the government, he conducted weekly broadcast at Malacañang to inform the people of the activities of the government. To help the poor and the needy, the President's Action Committee on Social Amelioration (PACSA) was created. The government also approved the Minimum Wage Law who set the daily wage of laborers, teachers and other public employees.
He ran for re-election in 1953, but lossed to Ramon Magsaysay.
He retired to private life after his loss. He died of heart attack in February 29, 1958.
As a legacy, the formed province carved out from Nueva Vizcaya was named after him. Towns in Ilocos Sur, Isabela and Sultan Kudarat (Pres. Quirino) is also his namesake.